For the Kansas City Chiefs, 2007 was a year to forget. They slogged through a losing season and played their last home game to a half-empty stadium peppered with frustrated fans so ashamed that some wore paper bags over their heads.
But Jared Allen had a standout season. The fourth-year defensive end is among the league leaders in sacks, and last month he was tapped to play in his first Pro Bowl. So we at the Department of Burnt Ends dropped our chips into the cheese dip when an announcer recently claimed that the 250-plus-pounder, who puts fear into the heart of NFL quarterbacks, had gone ... vegetarian.
Curious at the prospect of a beefy athlete giving up his carnivorous ways, we dropped in on Allen recently to ask about his supposed conversion to the tofu team. Turns out, the California native hasn't given up meat — not by a long shot. But the claims of his greened-up diet aren't entirely off base. After two drunk-driving charges in late 2006, which earned Allen a two-game suspension, the defensive end decided to go sober. And while he was giving up drinking, he says, he figured he'd revamp his diet, too.
First to go were fried foods. He cut out those fatty items entirely. "Fatty foods, they're the devil," Allen warns. You're less likely to see this tackle eyeing a steak these days, too. He has reduced his red-meat consumption to just a few servings a month, sticking to chicken and fish instead. When he's at a restaurant, he also tells cooks to hold the butter when preparing his veggies, which he prefers steamed.
The shift to what he calls a "clean" eating regime has had a huge impact on his game, he says. No longer does this hulking athlete have to fear feeling bloated. Now that he's not bogging himself down with fatty foods, he adds, his recovery time after games has dropped and his daily workouts have improved. He's not embarrassed to admit that his new eating habits have allowed him to drop a bunch of weight, too.
"I've been working forever to try to get abs, and I finally got abs," he says with a laugh. "Now I'm not ashamed to take my shirt off at the pool. I don't have to be the fat kid out there with a white T-shirt on anymore."
Allen can't say enough about how great he feels. But don't expect him to start eating Boca burgers instead of barbecue. He assures the Department of Burnt Ends that, even though he loves those omega-3 fatty acids, he's not going to go "extreme."
"I can't go vegetarian," he says. "I like hunting too much."
Sometimes, he falls off the healthy-eating wagon, too. On the day the Department stopped by, he admitted he'd just sneaked an indulgence.
"I just broke down and had a cookie," he said. "It was staring at me today."